Show off collections as you save space

September 23, 2006|by CHRISTINE BRUN/Copley News Service

The challenge that faces anyone who wants to display collections of little objects is that unless the pieces are artfully arranged, they can make a room feel cluttered. People end up giving away beloved possessions assembled over years because they want to avoid a jumbled, chaotic look in their small homes.

Before you part with a prized collection because you think it doesn't work in your close quarters, consider some of these possibilities. They will allow you to keep your treasures on display while at the same time saving the valuable storage space where you might have been tempted to stash them.

Put tiny items such as matches, shells or coins of modest value into jars and display them on narrow photo shelves of 3 inches to 4 inches in depth. Or look around for an antique thread cabinet used in a general store. Open the multiple tiny drawers to show off buttons, beads and feathers.


If folded fabrics are taking up space in your closet, try arranging them in an antique wardrobe and keeping the doors open. You might even mirror the inside of the doors so that your room benefits from the expanded view created in the mirrored panels.

Mount a compilation of old photographs or travel photos over a bed, as shown here. Use modular panels of tackboard as a "headboard" and change the mood and feeling of your room at will. You might also arrange pieces of fabric or colored handmade papers among the photographs.

This same technique might be used with a collection of pocket watches, military buttons or hat pins. Antique purses could be arranged in this same way, as could a collection of hats. Young boys might decorate their rooms with their collection of baseball caps, and girls could use this method to hang and display their ballet shoes. Naturally you'll want to remove and dust items you hang over your bed periodically.

If you use an inset window treatment such as wooden blinds, verticals or pleated shades, then the area above your windows is available for display. Mount the same narrow shelves mentioned earlier and fill them with small wooden toys, stuffed animals or seashells. Miniature books would work well up there, too.

Use sofa-back tables, end tables and cocktail tables that are made as display cases. These are especially useful because the viewer can be close enough to see and appreciate the objects. Stamp collections, coins or old maps might be well displayed in this way.

A friend who uses a vintage Airstream trailer as her guest room cleverly covered the floor with maps. This same treatment would also be effective on the walls, especially if you have vintage maps. Consult a professional paperhanger about a way to apply a protective topical sealer.

Do you have stacks of classic magazines that you can't bear to part with? A client used the covers of more than 30 years of New Yorkers as a distinctive wallpaper in the powder bathroom. The same could be done with such publications as Look, Life and National Geographic.

Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Big Ideas for Small Spaces." Send questions and comments to her by e-mail at or to Copley News Service, P.O. Box 120190, San Diego, CA 92112.

Copley News Service

The Herald-Mail Articles